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They Whisper

Posted on

They Whisper

Current Status:
In Season
Robert Olen Butler

We gave it a B+

They Whisper Butler’s A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain — stories about Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. — won the ’93 Pulitzer for fiction, and Wayne Wang, who directed The Joy Luck Club, is set to direct the movie. For an encore, Butler gives us They Whisper. His middle-aged, Midwestern Viet-vet narrator, Ira Holloway, daydreams about sex with the woman whose voice he hears in the supermarket’s talking cash register. He obsesses about girls he glimpsed in grade school, high school, and the back streets of Saigon. He marries a beautiful, guilt-ridden incest victim whose breakdown just happens to coincide with the fall of Saigon. Other writers have described the venal sensuality of wartime Vietnam. Butler may be the first to get an erotic charge from the steel mills of western Illinois. Connecting sex and smokestacks, sex and baseball, sex and the Vietnamese rubber harvest, he demonstrates, with considerable charm, that in humans, the most potent erogenous zone is the brain. B+